Saturday, March 4, 2017

Still Kicking

It has been ages since my last blog post-- 9 months.  I'm not sure I've ever neglected the blog this long before.

The blog is somewhat representative of my running, I suppose.  At one time, it was absolutely a focal point in my life.  Now?  Notsomuch.  I run fewer miles and race fewer races.  I work more hours than I did when running filled a void in my stay-at-home mom life.  I developed Hashimoto's hypothyroidism and am struggling through menopause.  Now that I'm on the other side of 45, in some ways, I'm older and wiser, and the hobby that became LARGER THAN LIFE is really just that now-- a hobby.

I'm thankful for the people running has brought into my life (well, most of them).  I'm happy to still be an athlete, though not a competitive one at all anymore (not that I ever was, really!).  But honestly, I'm glad to not have to plan my life around running!  I've decided that road marathons are the devil, so those were the first to go!  It's been two years since my last one.  I attempted one last April, but I became ill on the course, and dropped to the half.  I still love trail running, and I think trail running and hiking--maybe even backpacking-- will remain a part of my life.

Recently, I realized that any road runs over 9 miles are just leaving me so beaten up.  My achilles tendon or my right IT band or my left knee hurts in most long runs.  The road miles over the years have taken a toll.  I've run close to 10,000 miles at this point in my 10-year running career.   Trail runs leave me feeling centered and happy, not beaten up.

I had an amazing time at the trail/road hybrid 50K last June.  I was happy for the entire race.  I didn't worry about pace.  I just enjoyed the day.   I think I need more runs like that in my life.

In the interest of maintaining somewhat of a race report long on here, here's what I have raced since then:

August 2016-- I did the Wild Thang 9-mile trail run again.  I pushed as much as I could that day.  My time was slower on that run than in some years past, but I felt like I put forth a solid effort.  I was so happy my friend Michelle surprised me and decided to meet me at the trail that day.  My friend Vanessa also ran it as her first trail race.  Friends make running better1

September 2016-- I coached my good friend John for his first full marathon, and I joined him on the day of the Run 4 Water marathon.   I ran the half marathon and then worked as his crew along with some of his family members.  It was a tough, HOT day, but John finished his first 26.2.  Between my half and run/walking with him, I got in 20 miles that day!

October 2016-- My sweet friend Elleana decided to meet me at Land Between the Lakes in nearby Grand Rivers, KY for the beautiful LBL road half marathon.  We got separated at the start, but then we ran miles 2-13 together and had the best time chatting!  My stomach was very unhappy about the Patty's pork chop from the night before, so miles 8 on were kind of rough, but Elleana stuck with me!

I took a big break from races after October.  I had been struggling with my left knee, so I limited myself to only 4-miles at a time in November and 6 in December.  Reduced mileage helped!  I also started running with a shortened stride and faster turnover.

In February of 2017, I ran my first race of the year.  Elleana and I ran the Dry Creek 10K+ (7.3 miles to be exact) trail race.  We once again had a fun day.  We climbed over downed trees, splashed in puddles, and climbed a mini-mountain.  It was her first trail race!   The whole day felt like an adventure.  I loved it!  It really renewed my love for trails.

I am planning a few trail adventures this spring because I love them!   I'm also running a road half-marathon in two weeks.  I ran 12 road miles today, and well, UGH.  I've been worthless the rest of the day.

I'm going to run the half, but then I plan to focus on trails! I'm also coaching 6 awesome ladies for the St. Jude half marathon in April.

It's all good.....

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Good Day for a 50K: Hawthorn Half Day Race Report

  About a week and a half ago, I ran the Hawthorn Half Day timed ultra in Hawthorn Park in Terre Haute, Indiana.

   There were six-hour and twelve-hour options.  The course was a 3.1 mile loop that was a combination of trail/dirt, grass, gravel, and pavement.  I signed up for the twelve-hour option with no intention of running all 12 hours. My goal was to complete 50K and then begin the four-hour drive home without being too exhausted.  However, the week of the race predicted temps in the mid-90's, with a heat index at or over 100.  At that point I adjusted my goal to "whatever happens" and "just don't die."  It was refreshing to not have any expectations. Or just low ones.  I'm a sucker for low expectations! It takes the pressure off.  I'm not one to perform particularly well under pressure.  It's not like I'm trying to win the race or anything.  :-)  It's me against me.

  My friends Vanessa and Helene were my travel buddies.  We drove up the night before, stopping at a Ponderosa (those still exist??) somewhere in Northern Kentucky for some buffet magic- so many carb and protein choices!  It was actually good!  Our friend Lucas joined us the morning of the race to act as our one-man crew and encourager.

  Pre-race fresh faces:   (This is Vanessa.  I didn't get one with Helene and Lucas, unfortunately.)

  I went into this race fairly well trained but with a majority of my miles on the road.  The Flying Pig was going to be my longest run prior to this 50K, but that didn't work out due to illness.  I wound up with a 15-miler, a 16-miler, two 18's, and a 20-miler before this race.  My longest time on the trail was about 2 hours and 30 minutes. I knew this wasn't going to be technical, so I wasn't too worried.

  Apparently, I thrive in looped, timed races.  I have no problem running the same 3.1 mile course over and over.  (Or the same half-mile loop over and over like at RUTS!)   I get to know the course intimately.  I have favorite spots and less favorite spots.  I know I will pass my own personal aid station multiple times.  I don't have to think.  I just run.  I also enjoy ultras because I can run slow and relaxed, and I don't mind being out there all day.

  I ran the first few loops with or near Vanessa and Helene, but we wound up separating by loop four.  I figured I would find someone to talk to during the race, which happens so many times, but that didn't happen.  It was just me out there.  And it was GOOD.  I was in the best mood the entire race. My body was cooperating, and I was staying entertained by my own mind.  
  I think I was smiling like this the whole race.  I'm not sure which loop this was, but don't I look ridiculously happy?  It felt good to have a race go well for a change!!  There was no wall.  There was just happy running.  The miles and laps absolutely flew by.  During one loop, I took a few course pics, but mostly I left my phone at the campsite.  Here are a few scenic spots of the trail section of the course:

  This was the most significant hill.  It was short, but steep.  There were four hills per loop, so I ran up 40 hills!  Only this one was noticeable, and one time, I found myself on the other side of it without noticing it.  I think that was loop 5 or 6.  I thought, "Wait, have I done the hill yet?"  I had absolutely no recollection of it.  I was lost in my thoughts.....

These next few show the lake we ran around.

  I called this full-sun 3/4 mile "the oven."

  This is another full-sun section, but it is shorter.  Around my 8th loop, I was talking to another runner telling him my nickname for the above section as we ran this one.  He said if the long one is "the oven," this one should be called "the toaster oven."  Clever.  (CAUTION? These must be special attack geese or something.)

  The early morning temps weren't too bad, but by late morning, it was WARM.  I concentrated on staying hydrated and staying cool.  Lucas crewed me like a boss.  He'd ask, "What do you need?" every loop, and I'd give him a list.  At the top of my list was a ziploc baggie of ice, then a water bottle filled 3/4 with ice and 1/4 with lemon-lime Skratch.   The Tailwind I had didn't agree with me that day, so I'm putting it away awhile for the less-sweet Skratch.  

  Honestly, the baggie of ice SAVED me!  I put it under hat to cool my brain.  I tied it on the back of my neck with a bandana.  My favorite spot for it was in my bra!   The ice would last most of a 3.1 mile lap.  I'd switch it every few miles, and it provided welcome distraction.  

  It is hard to know how to dress for a 90-degree + race.  I started the race in a tank, but it began to chafe, and I wound up switching to a short-sleeved white shirt as the day wore on.  It was very lightweight, and the motto fit!  (It was from my last trail race in Indiana last fall.)

  When the temperature got even warmer, we were blessed by a breeze, which made it not only bearable, but even comfortable!  Somehow this weather did not bother me at all the entire day.  Before the race, I was not concerned about my legs being able to do it, I was concerned about heat illness!  I had even considered not going to the race.  I wasn't sure how my body would handle these temps with my hypothyroidism and having gotten sick at the Flying Pig, at least partly due to the heat.  But I had friends praying for me during this race and sending me well-wishes, and I felt amazing.  I took it slow and steady, which is my favorite way to run anyway! 

 This is the temperature from when I hit the trail marathon distance.  I was still feeling good.  Nothing hurt. 

After the marathon, I just had 1.5 more loops to do.  I was running when I could and hiking when I needed to.  I crossed the 50K point in 7:23:05 feeling happy and truly blessed.

  I felt recovered by Wednesday that week, except for one ugly toenail blister.  It finally went away 7 days later, but the toenail is now a nice shade of black.  I've taken a week and a half off from running.  The family and I went down to Florida for a great week of vacation the Thursday after the race.  I may not have run, but the Apple watch says we've walked 6-10 miles per day every day of vacation.  I love walking miles and miles along the beach.  I ran briefly for about 100 meters once just to say "I ran on the beach."  I just don't feel like running again yet or training for anything.  It's time for my yearly break to recover mentally and physically.  I'm ready.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

DNF: Do Nothing Foolish---Flying Pig Race Report

Well, the Flying Pig Marathon didn't go as planned, to say the least.

Here is the whole ugly story, as told in pictures and thoughts:

The night before the race around midnight:  My stomach is awfully rumbly.  I must not have eaten enough dinner!

1:00 a.m.:  I sure wish I could sleep!

2:00 a.m.:  Don't think about not sleeping.  Don't think about not sleeping.

4:25 a.m.:  It's almost alarm time.  I might as well get up.

5:00 a.m.:   I'm really tired, probably because I didn't sleep!  This oatmeal is disgusting.

5:45 a.m.:  Ready to go!  Eagle up!   (Me, Harriet, and Cheryl)

Mile 1:  Feelin' fine!  I'm so glad we didn't go out too fast!  This is going to be fun! 

Mile 2:  Wow, it's crowded.  There are people in my personal space!  Time to run with elbows out to gain a little room. 
(photo credit:  Flying Pig 2016 Facebook page)

Mile 3:  Oh, ANOTHER bridge.  It's pretty I guess. Wow, I'm getting HOT.  I can feel heat radiating off my face and chest.  That's weird.   I'll just keep sipping this Tailwind and stay hydrated. 
(photo credit:  Flying Pig 2016 Facebook page)

Mile 4:  I'm feeling really, really hot and now dizzy.  So Much Nausea.  Just keep sipping fluids. Should I tell Harriet in case I pass out?    "Harriet, I need to tell you something.  I'm not feeling exactly right.  I'm dizzy and overheated.  Here is my road ID with Chris's number on it in case I pass out."    

Mile 5:  Pouring water on my head and the back of my neck at the water station will help.  (It didn't.)

Mile 6:  I do not like this uphill.  Fight the nausea.  Fight the dizziness.  Keep moving.

Mile 7: (still going uphill)  Ugh.  Running makes me dizzy, so I'm just going to walk this looonng uphill.  Oh, look, it's Elvis.  If if didn't feel so crappy, I'd get a picture with him.  
(photo credit:  Flying Pig 2016 Facebook page)

Mile 8: (praying) "God, I need you to get me through this run!  There's no way I can do this on my own for 18 more miles.  Tell me what to do." 

Mile 8.5:  I remember that the half-marathon split is at mile 9.  Should I drop down?   I'm having chills, nausea, and dizziness now.  Every step is a battle.  Am I having a heat stroke?   I don't want the girls to have to take me to the hospital and for Chris to worry. (more prayer) "God, please help me to be smart and do the right thing. I don't want to do anything foolish and hurt myself.  Make it clear what I should do."

Mile 8.75:  "Harriet, I have a decision to make.  I think I may drop down to the half.  I don't think it is wise to continue feeling like this. I'm having bad chills and nausea now."  She totally agreed and practically pushed me over into the half-marathon lane!

Mile 9:   (with complete clarity after taking the half-marathon split)  I made the right decision.

Mile 10:  Oh, good grief, how many more miles do I have???   I feel like dirt.  Worse than dirt.  My energy is gone.  Ok, that's a cute sign.   
(photo credit:  Flying Pig 2016 Facebook page)

Mile 11:  Why is this downhill so HARD????   (12:00 minute pace on the downhill.....)   That guy is passing out Swedish Fish.  Maybe a little sugar will give me energy to finish. 

Mile 12:  I'm just going to walk it in from here.  No, I'm going to run.  Ok, I'll run a little and walk a little.  Oh, damn.  That was a dry heave. At least it was dry. 

Mile 13:  Don't throw up.  Don't throw up.  There are people everywhere.  

Mile 13.1:  Thank you, Jesus!  
(photo credit:  Flying Pig 2016 Facebook page)

Mile 13.2:  I should take a selfie that shows how I feel right now.  If I smile, the bile may slide out.....

6 minutes after finishing:  Which way is the hotel?   Oh, dear Lord, I don't know!!!

12 minutes after finishing:  (wandering around carrying an armload of finish line food I can't eat)   This doesn't look right.  Why am I inside the stadium??

15 minutes after finishing:  Ok, I'll Google the hotel address and use Maps app to walk back there.  Oh, it's only 0.6 miles away.  Thank goodness. 

20 minutes after finishing:  I'm never going to get there.  I wish I'd brought money for a cab.  If my arms weren't so full, I'd open this bottle of water and drink it. 

25 minutes after finishing:  Where is it???  Don't panic.  Don't panic.  Oh, thank HEAVEN, there it is!!  

5 seconds later:  Oh, man,  that is far away.  (It's the beige one in the distance behind the pole.)  I seriously feel awful.  Have I ever felt this awful before??  Just keep moving.....

30 minutes after finishing:  This is ridiculous.  

32 minutes after finishing:  Whew, I made it.  

I have absolutely no regrets about dropping down to the half.  A DNF sometimes means "Do Nothing Foolish."  I listened to my body on this day!  There will be other marathons.  (Maybe.)

I was sick the rest of the day and for the next four days with fever, nausea, fatigue, and chills.  My friends took good care of me on the long drive home.  Two of my kiddos came down with it on Sunday and Monday.  Viruses happen.  I just hope one never happens during a marathon again! 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

When Pigs Fly....

In just a little over two weeks, I will be running what looks like the Happiest Marathon on Earth--the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio.  I mean, look at these pictures:

They call it the Finish Swine, ya'll.  How could I not run it?

Training has gone pretty well.  I ran a couple of 16-milers, an 18, and a 20.  I finished the 18 and 20 strong with my fastest miles in the last three miles.  I have finally figured out the KEY to the long run is to start out really slow.  And stay slow.  Then finish strong.

In fact, that sounds like a pretty darn good marathon strategy!  I am NOT looking for a PR.  I would love to beat my times in my last two or three marathons, but we shall see.

My former speed (what little there was) has not recovered from my adrenal fatigue/getting old or whatever happened last fall.  That's ok though.  I've really rediscovered a love for road running that I didn't see coming back.  On trails lately, I prefer to hike, mainly because of a good friend and my husband both severely injuring themselves during trail runs this fall/winter.  Maybe I'm angry at trail running?  Scared of injuring myself?  I don't know, but I feel like I could hike for days and days.  (Maybe I need to sign up for a 48-hour event on a beautiful trail and just hike until I drop??)

I'm also recently newly obsessed with the Appalachian Trail.  I'm not the thru-hiker type, but I wouldn't mind doing sections at times.  In fact, I got to hike on it just a few weeks ago in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee!  I also read Becoming Odyessa recently, the story of Jennifer Pharr Davis's first thru hike.  Some gals and I are toying with a week-long AT hiking trip in the future.

Overall, I'm in a good place in my running world.  Not everything is perfect, of course.  There are always bumps in the road (first-world problems....).  Another one of my dear friends (and running buddies) is moving away in two weeks.  She makes the 4th friend/trail running buddy/road trip companion to have left in the past 11 months!  They were all stay-at-home moms who could run during the day with me.  I see many lonely solo miles in my future!  I just prefer to run when the kids are at school, so I can be home with them in the evenings.   Also, my knees finally rebelled against all of the road running.  I noticed three weeks ago a catch in my left knee during my 20-miler.  That grew into a dull and sometimes sharp ache.  Runner's knee.  Patellar tendonitis.  I am backing off the runs for the next two weeks, and am just going to coast until the marathon.  I'm doing other things to treat it:  stretching, foam rolling, strength training.  It'll be fine.  Or it won't, and it'll hurt for 26.2 miles.  I'll live.  :-)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Running with Perseverance

After my 12-week Maffetone base build, and 4 weeks of 80/20 easy/hard running, I'll test this style of running in the Frostbite Half on Saturday.

It will be my 3rd time to run this race.  The past two times, I ran 2:15 and 2:14.  This time, I'd be fairly happy with 2:18, but maybe Maffetone Magic will surprise me!

I didn't taper well.  I ran a 10.5 mile trail run last Saturday that was really, really tough.  Then I walked about 3.5 on Sunday and took a yoga class on Monday.  Not having taken yoga in months, that was not the smartest idea!  My glutes and hips have been so sore!

I ran  3.5 mile runs on Tues/Wed and rested today.  I may run two miles tomorrow with strides, or I may just rest.

I honestly have no idea what Saturday will hold for me, but I will run with perseverance.

The most important thing is that I feel happy and healthy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Basebuilding the Maffetone Way

It's been a while!  Right after my last post, I ran the Indian Celina trail half marathon, which turned out to be an important day in my running year.  It was the day I realized something needed to change.

I didn't have a good day.  From the very start, I couldn't seem to get my breathing under control. My heart rate seemed very high at a slow pace.  I had had the same issue in the trail 7-miler the week before.  I was pushing the pace and thinking I was running fairly strong until suddenly, I wasn't.  I ran out of steam greatly at mile 10 of 13.  The course was beautiful and challenging, but I just didn't have the stamina I thought I had.  I was training adequately (I thought), but I was having diminishing returns. After the race, my friends and I walked back out onto the course for some pics:

My fast heart rate was a concern.  I'd had my heart do some acrobatics one day during speedwork at the local track.  My rhythm was off, and it felt like my heart turned a couple of flips.  On several nights as I lay in bed trying to sleep, I was having palpitations.  I was wired, but tired.  All of the time.  I thought maybe my dose of Synthroid was off.  (I have autoimmune Hashimoto's hypothyroidism.) When I looked at the bottle, I realized that the pharmacy had given me the generic version, and with thyroid meds, that's not a good thing.  Unlike most generic drugs, thyroid meds can vary too much.

I had also been having some minor chest pain, so I made an appointment with my primary care doc.  My EKG came back normal.  My chest xray did, too.   However, he wanted to do a holter monitor test on me.  He arranged for me to wear a heart monitor for 7 days while I went about my business normally, including running.  The test came back normal.  That was GOOD news.  As a runner, I've always worried that I'm overstressing my heart.

However, blood work came back with borderline anemia, explaining some of the fatigue and the fast heartbeat. My TSH was 0.4, which was a little toward the hyperthyroid (overmedicated) side.  (Normal is 0.3--3.0.)  I started on iron immediately and got a new Synthroid prescription.

The doctor also felt like adrenal fatigue and/or overtraining could be an issue.  I had several months of personal stress, I was trying to run too fast too often coming back from my injury, and my Hashimoto's medication wasn't quite right. This combination can stress the adrenals. The doctor advised me to eliminate or greatly reduce caffeine to start.  I went from two large cups of Starbucks k-cup coffee (blonde roast and breakfast blend--very caffeinated!) each morning to one cup of 1/2 caf and one decaf.  The two cups of strong coffee weren't even giving me any energy anyway, and they definitely weren't doing my heart any favors.

Enter the Maffetone Method. (Or should I say re-enter??  I used this for a while back in 2012 then forgot about it.)

The Maffetone Method is a gentle method of running  at a maximum aerobic function (MAF) heart rate attained by subtracting my age from 180.   That would put me at 135.   Dr. Maffetone has coached countless athletes, including elite triathlete Mark Allen.

With my new heart rate monitor, I could make sure every run was at MAF heart rate or below for a minimum of 12 weeks.  Yes, every run. (This is where he differs a bit from Joe Friel and Lydiard and some other heart-rate training advocates who allow some faster runs during base building.)

Why?  To ensure a truly easy pace, build stamina and mileage with little chance of injury, build capillary beds, increase mitochondria, and increase fat burning! 

It would also be gentle on my cranky right IT band.  It would make me healthier as an athlete. This brief explanation doesn't do this plan justice.  Please check it out for yourself!

I re-read The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing  from the public library by Phil Maffetone and devoured all the posts on  During my first MAF test, I was surprised to find that even though I had been running most of my miles at about a 10:30-10:40 pace, my true "easy" pace (according to my 135 heart rate) was about a 13:30 pace.  That shows a terrible lack of aerobic development because I was primarily running my runs in the anaerobic zone, even long ones.  (For the record, the "talk test" doesn't work.  I can talk just fine at a too-high heart rate. I'm still going too fast.)

For the past three months I have loved and hated MAF running.

 I've loved the peacefulness of running slow and easy.  I've loved being able to run 4 or 5 days in a row without rest. The recovery from this running is phenomenal! I've loved finishing runs only slightly spent.  I've loved having my legs not hurt every day. (I was absolutely not recovering well before this.)

 However, I've hated it on those days when my heart rate monitor won't stop screaming at me because my heart rate has spiked. I've hated feeling slow when I meet other runners on the road or trail. I've hated having to constantly hold back on runs.

And I've both loved and hated doing 90% of my runs alone.  It has been lonely and refreshing at the same time.

But I've finally learned what it means to run easy.  I've built up a base of 25-30 miles per week with little stress, and I feel great!   My IT band feels better.  Weirdly, I just have a greater peace and greater energy. I can now run at about a 12:15 pace at a heart rate of 135.   If I continue with MAF training, I could eventually get down to a 10:15 pace at a heart rate of 135.  Then 9:15.  That would change my running life completely!   I've also been running on low or no fuel to increase my fat-burning ability and spare muscle glycogen.  I've run 2 hours + on just water.

In addition to Maffetone, I've recently read Primal Endurance by Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns and have been listening to the podcasts.  It's a GREAT book, and I highly recommend it.  The training protocol in there would work for triathletes or runners.   This isn't "chronic cardio."  This type of training increases health rather than detracts from it.

I am finishing my third month of basebuilding this month.  I'm taking Sisson's advice (his program utilizes MAF, too) and integrating some speed and strength training for the next four weeks, then running a half marathon.  After that, I'll go back to MAF running for a while.

So, what have I learned over the past three months?
1.  To be patient.
2.  That running can be relaxing.
3.  That the kind of training I was doing wasn't increasing my overall health.
4.  That running gently makes me feel like I can run all day.
5.  That I don't need caffeine.
6.  That I was doing all of my easy and long runs TOO FAST.  Marathon goal pace is not an appropriate long run pace every week.  Marathon goal pace + one to two minutes is.  Goal paced running has a place within some long runs and on some short runs.
7.  That I was running all of  my runs in that gray "moderate" area-- neither easy enough to be easy, nor hard enough to build improvement.
8.  That little of my running should be done in that gray "moderate" area.
9.  That I can burn fat on my long runs and not take in gels every 40-45 minutes.
10. That I knew this all along.  When I went through my RRCA coaching certification course six years ago, I learned all this.  I just got away from it.
11. To be patient.  (It bears repeating!)

"Be patient.  Do good work.  And improvements will come."    

 --John Hadd    (another heart rate training advocate)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What? I Have a Running Blog?

All has been quiet on the blogging front for quite a while.  I'm sure you noticed. :-)

All summer, I worked on shortening my stride and increasing foot turnover.  My hip injury healed.  I ran lots of short runs.  The hip preferred trails over pavement, so I spent many miles in the woods.

Running adventures/races:

July--- I did the Bowie Park 6-mile trail run in Nashville.  It was incredibly hot and humid that day.  I ran fairly well for the first four miles, then the heat and lack of training got to me!

August---I did a road 5K in Franklin, KY with some new Kentucky running friends.  I ran hard, but controlled.  My time was 29:40, around 10 seconds slower than the 5K I ran pre-injury.   I want to get that 5K time down in the 26's!    This was my last race in the 40-44 age group.  I did not place.
I also ran trails at Percy Warner Park in Nashville for the first time.  I loved it there!!

September---  Labor Day weekend, I completed a 12.5 mile run at Beaman Park. On the 13th,  I entered the 45-49 age group!  I celebrated by attending the Cumberland Transit Women's Trail Running Retreat weekend in Lyles, TN.   It was so much fun.  I made lots of new trail running buddies.  

This past weekend, I ran the 7.6 mile Two Lakes Trail race in Dickson, TN.  It was a challenging and chilly run!  It was 49 degrees and drizzly.  I really enjoyed the beauty of the trail though.

This weekend I have a trail half marathon race in Indiana.

From here, I have no idea where I'm going!  After this weekend, I'm not registered for anything.

Perhaps I should just run for running's sake for a while?

I've got my eye on the Bell Ringer 25K in Dickson in December.  I've done a 10 and 12 miler on pavement lately, and both really made my IT bands hurt.  I'm thinking trails may be for me--permanently!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer of Rebuilding

I have to say I've really enjoyed this summer of rebuilding.  I miss my running buddies, but I've had to take some time to do my own thing.  I've really focused on strength training and running short runs with better form.  I've had many chiropractic adjustments, sports massage, and spent more time in the local YMCA and my home gym than I have in years.

I had what I thought was a setback two weeks ago.  I attempted a 5-mile road run with my husband.  My hip hurt nearly the whole run.  It was hot and humid.  I couldn't catch my breath.  I had no strength on hills.  At 3, I started run-walking.  At 4.25, I gave up and walked back home, feeling very defeated.  I was also embarrassed that I couldn't keep up with him.

The next day, my hip felt ok, so at 6 p.m., when it was slightly cooler, I headed out for a second try.  I had a WONDERFUL 5-mile trail run.  I walked some of the hills, but it was the first time I felt like myself again-- pushing, climbing, drenched in sweat and accomplishment at the end.   I celebrated with a trip to Academy Sports and a new running hat.

Since that confidence-building run, I've had some pretty good runs.  My still-healing hip prefers trails to roads.  Four road miles is the maximum I've run comfortably.  Last Saturday, my husband (aka my summer running buddy) and I ran a very challenging 6-mile loop at a trail near Nashville.  It was TOUGH, but we had a good time.  I felt good the next day.  During runs, I am aware of my hip less and less.  It does ache/burn mildly on hills.

Those 5 and 6 mile trail races were in preparation for this Sunday's Bowie Park 6-mile race, my first race post-injury and first in about two months.  I love exploring new trails, and this one is about 1 hour, 15 minutes away.  I hope to run it strong.

 I am slowly rebuilding endurance, acclimating to the heat, and getting back to my normal pace. This week was a good week of training.  I ran a 2.5 miler, 4 miles with 4 X 1/4 mile intervals, and 3.1 miles alternating 1/2 mile easy, 1/2 mile moderate.  I also crosstrained for one hour and strength trained.  This balance of running and crosstraining/strength training feels right.

I am going to focus on building up my base in the upcoming weeks.  I've found a great Glute Camp program on one of the machines at the Y--the arc trainer, which is my favorite.   I plan to start taking one spin class per week as well.   I'll probably try some 55-minute strength training classes as well.

I don't have an official training plan, but my next long race is a half marathon on October 10.  I'll be ready!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Learning to Run---the RIGHT Way

I have learned so much since my last post.  In the first few weeks after the marathon, my legs were sore and very tired.  I know that running 26.2 miles (even with quite a bit of walking in those later miles) leaves microtears in my muscles.  The third week after the race, I began to run short, fast distances and raced a small 5K.  I ran 29:30, which is slower than many of my 5K tempo training runs over the last few years.  But it was hot, and I was only three weeks post marathon.  I still placed 3rd in my age group!

Here is a pic of me early in mile 1 taken from my parents' front porch (this is my hometown 5K-I'm in the blue shorts and white hat): 

In recent pics, and especially in the marathon pics, I see that I have a bigger-than-usual posterior pelvic tilt.  My hips scoop forward when I run.  Several things contribute to posterior pelvic tilt, including shortened hip flexors, inefficient gait, overstriding, and incorrect running posture.  My hips had never bothered me though.  I was doing a series of exercises called Myrtl at least once a week throughout the marathon training period.  I thought they were strong. My hip did ache a bit in the later miles of the marathon, though not in the weeks post-marathon or during this 5K. The week following this race, I continued with short, fast runs to try to whittle some time off my my next 5K.

However, on Saturday, May 16, I ran 10 miles, with fast one-mile intervals the last 6.  It was a tough run one month post-marathon.  That evening I noticed my right hip was sore.  It continued to hurt the next day and the following week.  I kept expecting it to get better, but it remained sore as I ran through it.  Then it intensified.  Finally, I took 7 days off running.  I was filled with hope on my first run back, but one-mile in, every step had begun to hurt.  I walked back home, defeated. 

This pattern continued for a month.  Self-treatments included foam rolling, rolling around on a tennis ball, stretching, hip-strengthening exercises, glute strengthening exercises, and periods of several rest days from running.  It never got better.  I figured it was either a hip flexor strain, hip flexor tear, or hip stress fracture.  I even worried about bone cancer.  I was in a dark place.  

Finally, I made appointments with BOTH a local chiropractor and a my orthopedic doctor.  The chiro had an opening on Monday, so I saw him first.  He found several issues, including uneven hips (the painful one tilts back farther), some joints with limited mobility, and form issues. Diagnosis:  hip flexor strain.   He adjusted several parts of me, and I left with 70% less pain than I arrived with!  He also gave me some information I already knew about good form--- increase foot turnover with short, quick steps, run with a neutral pelvis, run with shoulders back and head upright, not looking down, land with my feet under my center of mass--- but had NOT really worked to put into practice.   He didn't call it Pose Running, but that is similar to what he was explaining to me.  He also encouraged me to concentrate on forefoot or midfoot striking rather than heel striking.   

The very next day I tried running utilizing all of these techniques.  For the first time in over a month, I was able to run without pain.  Tweaking my form made all the difference.  I ran 1.5 miles that first day, FOREfoot striking with each step.  I was basically running on my toes, and it felt so unnatural. But my hip didn't hurt!  My feet, ankles, and calves hurt afterwards though!

I tried forefoot striking that week in short runs of 1 to 1.5 miles at a time.  It was painful and awkward, and I knew I was going to injure myself in other ways if I continued.  

I did some research and read that midfoot striking with a soft heel strike is recommended for those with IT Band and knee or hip issues.  Two recommendations were made:  get some shoes that "encourage" midfoot strike, such as Newtons or other minimal shoes and run with a metronome between 170 and 180 steps per minute.

I did both and I found my stride again!

I absolutely loved my Newton Fates and my metronome app from the very first run.  My form was no longer awkward.  I could  midfoot strike easily and land under my center of gravity.  The turnover was quick (I started at 178), so there was no overstriding.  I focused on maintaining a straight line between my shoulders and pelvis.

Relearning to run and using different muscles is exhausting, honestly!  Many muscles that should have been driving my run have been asleep at the wheel.  I am definitely quad dominant with weak gluteus maximus and gluteus minimus from all of my "flat-butt syndrome"/posterior pelvic tilt running.  Those underused muscles tire out quickly.  I have to be vigilant the entire run lest I fall back into old habits.  

I know form has always been an issue with me, but I was in denial. I believe when I stopped having two dedicated strength training days, these muscle imbalances became much more pronounced.  I strength train almost every day now.  I am up to running up to 3.5 miles with this new form (with only very mild hip soreness afterwards and the next day).  I'm healing. 

The lesson I've learned here is to not take running for granted.  I missed it those five weeks when I could not run without pain.  It's not just important to run, but to do all of those auxiliary things like form drills and lunges and hip work.  As an almost forty-five year old runner, I have to find a type of running that is sustainable for the long haul.  For me, that may not be running 5 marathons per year or 3 ultramarathons in six months.  

For now, I'd rather run 3.5 miles with proper form than 30 with my old form.  I should have done this years ago.  YEARS.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

One More Last Time: Carmel Marathon Race Report

The Carmel Marathon was my 15th marathon, and I told myself it would be my last for a while.  I thought I had fallen out of love with road marathons, but this past weekend, I realized I was wrong.

There is still something special about pinning on a bib among 3,000 like-minded individuals.  

There is still something special about listening reverently to the national anthem right before a race starts.  

There is still something special about not knowing what the day will bring.  

There is still something special about pushing your body to and beyond THE WALL, and the strength you try to find through the struggle.  

There is still something special about the relief you feel when you get to mile 24, knowing the struggle is almost over.  

There is still something special about crossing that finish line and having a medal placed around your neck.  

There is still something special about the running community and spending time and miles with new friends and old.

In a nutshell: 
It was HOT.  It was long.  It was my third slowest road marathon-- not as slow as my first Country Music Marathon, nor as slow as my implosion at the Southern Tennessee Power Classic last October, but slower than the Flying Monkey when I sprained my ankle at mile 10.  I suffered.  I struggled.  But somehow I found the joy in it.  I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did.  

The road trip:
The road trip with Harriet and Cheryl and Cheryl's daughter began on Friday morning.  We had a smooth trip overall until we hit Indianapolis traffic that afternoon.

We made it to the expo, and as soon as I walked in, I heard, "Is that Donna?"  It was my ultramarathoner friend Diane Taylor.  We have run several of the same races over the past couple of years.  I hadn't talked to since last summer's Jackal Trail Marathon.  She's a veteran of four Bostons and over 200 marathons and ultras, including multiple 500K races!

The expo was very well organized and had lots of great vendors and samples.  I love expos! We got our race packets, shopped a little, and headed to dinner (with Diane) at McAlister's Deli.  After eating and talking running for a long time, we knew we'd better head to the hotel to get settled in.  I had a 5:00 a.m. alarm planned, which would feel like 4:00 a.m. with the time change.

Just as I was laying down, I had two chills in succession.  That didn't bode well. I was immediately freezing but couldn't remember where the thermostat was to turn it up.  (#fail) I spent the entire night alternating chills and sweating. (Thank you, MENOPAUSE.  You suck!)  I slept approximately 12 minutes.

Harriet and I got up and got ready.  I had to take my tradional pre-race mirror selfie.

We met up in the lobby to caravan to the race.

Parking was quick and easy, and port-o-potties were plentiful--this is one well-done race!

Harriet and I decided to start off with the 4:40 pacer, so we lined up with her and chatted a bit.  She was a PE teacher from Pennsylvania.  We thought starting with her would help us to not start faster than a 10:40 pace, BUT she took off like a flash at the start at about a 10:15.  I guess she was banking time.  We let her go almost immediately, and a few steps into the race, someone grabbed both my shoulders from behind.  It was my friend Bill!!!

I was SO EXCITED to see him and gave him a big hug.  I met Bill during a marathon in February of 2014. We chatted some, and then I saw him two weeks later at another race.  Then two weeks after that, I ran into him at yet another race.  He is quite possibly the NICEST RUNNER EVER. We became fast friends. Then last December, while running on a treadmill at the gym, his heart stopped. Not a heart attack, heart failure.  Thankfully, he survived (God decided he had more work for Bill to do!), and he has begun fighting his way back onto the race circuit.  I was hoping to run into him. It made my day!

The race:
The race course was fabulous.  Carmel must be a great place for active people to live!  There are bike paths and parks and greenways and nice sidewalks everywhere.  We ran on them all, as well as through some very nice residential neighborhoods  For once, I didn't mind pounding the pavement.  On foot is a GREAT way to see a  new city!  It was flat, flat, flat, too!  We were blessed with lots of shade during the first 13 miles, but the last 13 were full sun.

Harriet and I ran together for much of the race.  We hammed it up pretty crazily for the photographers.  Those pictures aren't available yet, but they should be interesting.  We decided to do double gun hands for a change of pace.  :- )   I'll post when I get them.  Oh yeah, pictures at the Carmel Marathon are FREE to runners!

After what seemed like a very long half-marathon, we crossed the 13.1 mat.  Fatigue was creeping in for us, and we were slowing down. We were far behind the 4:40 pacer, and we were running just behind the 4:55 pacer for a while.  In a funny twist, the 4:55 pacer turned out to live in our hometown.  She just moved here and has been wanting to meet some running folks. She met two that day.  :-)    We were struggling to hang with her though.  It just wasn't our day.  At this point or maybe even earlier, we decided we really didn't care about time.  We just wanted to finish the race fairly pleasantly.

My running buddy Harriet and I parted ways for about miles 16-23, but got back together at mile 24.  Those last miles were painful for us both due to blisters.  My Ininji toe sock had been bunched up around my pinky toe the entire race, and the toe was totally encased in a blister.  Then the blister had folded over onto itself on the bottom of the toe.  With each step, fluid was pushed from the bottom of the blister to the area just under the cuticle.  I was sure my toenail was being ripped off with every step, especially in miles 25-26.2.  Stab, stab, stab with every step.    It was also HOT.  It was 76 degrees when I checked my phone at mile 19 and 79 degrees when we finished.  We were not accustomed to that! We both hung in there, though, and we crossed the mat with identical times of 5:10:14.  

We did something I'd never done before in the finish line chute.  We both ripped our shoes OFF and walked around in our socks for the next hour and a half.  Our feet were NOT going back in those shoes.  We got a couple of bags of chips and found a soft place on the grass to watch the end of the race.

We got to see Cheryl cross the finish line of her first marathon. As it turned out, after Diane finished, she went back out for Cheryl and escorted her in.  Runners are good people.  We chatted up several folks from the Nolensville Running Club near Nashville as we were hanging around post-race. They'd brought 70 runners to the race!  I so appreciate and enjoy the community of runners.  

We spent that night with Harriet's family, and I was home in time to catch the 2nd half of my church's Sunday morning service!

I'm very thankful to have gone on this journey.

Now I'm considering planning "one more last time" marathon.